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Alabama GOP leader says ‘religious freedom’ bills targeting gays likely dead

Alabama GOP leader says ‘religious freedom’ bills targeting gays likely dead

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate said Thursday that he believes religious freedom bills that target gays and lesbians are likely dead for the legislative session.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Thursday that he did not think the issues would get a floor vote.

One House-passed bill would give legal protections to probate judges who refuse to marry gay couples. Another that has cleared House committee would give protections to church-affiliated adoption agencies and children’s homes that refuse to let gay couples adopt.

“What I do not want to do is give a perception Alabama is attacking any group. … We are a very conservative state, I understand that, but I don’t want to give any perception that we’re attacking anyone,” Marsh said.

Marsh said the bills would be bad for state’s image as it attempts to recruit companies. Marsh said he believes lawmakers will be concentrating on the budget and other issues for the remainder of the session.

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Lawmakers in a number of conservative states introduced religious freedom bills this year, anticipating a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

Indiana drew a backlash over a religious freedom bill that critics said would allow businesses to refuse services to gays and lesbians.

However, the Alabama Senate has approved one bill that was brought in reaction to the legalization of gay marriage. Senators approved a bill that would do away with state-issued marriage licenses. The bill is now before the House of Representatives.

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Del Marsh
Del Marsh

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Marsh is also sponsoring a bill to expressly state that Alabama government does not discriminate against gays in hiring and promotion practices.

Marsh said the bill is narrowly written and only impacts employment with the state and not private businesses. Sexual orientation and expression would be added to prohibitions against discrimination in state employment and prohibitions based on age, race or ethnicity.

“What I’m looking at is how we are perceived by those industries out there that are looking to relocate to the state of Alabama. There have been some negative comments made of Alabama as you all know by some industrialists out there. We want to dispel that and make it clear that we are open for business,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he brought the legislation at the request of the business community.

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The Republican Senate leader has been firmly aligned with the state’s business community during his legislative career, and at times has found himself at odds with tea party groups and social conservatives over issues such as repeal of the Common Core curriculum standards.

However, a Senate committee refused to vote on Marsh’s bill Thursday, meaning it is likely dead for the session.

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